Standing in the center of the nearly complete penthouse at the Neapolitan, his brand new highrise in Old Town, developer Robert Mosky, waves a hand at the inlaid cherry ceiling and plain white walls.
“All of this cherry paneling – we’re putting it on the walls too – will darken,” says Mosky, partners with Albert Kocemba in RDM Development. “We’ve had people concerned in the past about whether or not this would match their furniture. We have to sit down with their designers and explain that cherry wood darkens as the sunlight hits it. Trust me, we know wood.”
Not only do RDM and Kocemba’s construction arm, Alko Construction, know wood, they also know with a shocking level of certitude how even the smallest details in a new development will play out.
At the Venetian, a 16-story condo building underway around the corner from the Neapolitan, at 222 W. Division, Mosky knows that his crews as of mid-January will build a new floor every six days until the 16-story structure is complete. He knows the precise type of commercial tenant he wants – a gourmet grocery / café that sells prepared food, bakery items and good coffee – and has lined up a user to fulfill that vision. Perhaps most important, he knows how condos at the Venetian, from the most affordable one-bedroom to the top penthouse, will look and feel.
“All of these units have at least 10- to 11-foot ceilings,” Mosky says. “That really is dramatic. It’s hard to appreciate it without seeing. Nine feet is nice; ten is fantastic. It gives you such a feeling of volume and space. Even someone in a one-bedroom can feel like he’s living in a palace.”
A high level of standard finishes in all of the units adds to that feeling of luxury, according to Chaz Walters, the Coldwell Banker agent selling the Venetian.
“The standards are really nice here,” Walters says. “Units have cherry cabinets, granite countertops, maple or oak floors, fireplaces…”
Mosky, whose projects range from the recently completed Neapolitan and North Center to Ivy Lane and Reliable Lofts, says his strategy is always to start with a strong package of standards, though buyers might not fully appreciate them until they move in.
“We always give a little more on the standard finishes, we try to put our best foot forward,” Mosky says. “But it always looks even better than people expect. It’s hard to convey how good it’s going to look. We definitely don’t over-promise, and we definitely over-deliver.”
What RDM will be delivering at the Venetian, designed by architects Hartshorne & Plunkard, is 88 condos priced from the $270s to the $650s. The units have one to three bedrooms and one to three baths. They include large balconies or terraces, hardwood floors, in-unit laundries, marble master baths, granite counters, 10-foot ceilings and fireplaces (penthouses have an even higher level of standard finishes, and two of three duplex penthouses were sold at press time). Indoor parking is $35,000 per spot. Eight tandem spots are available for $55,000
The building has a 24-hour doorman, a rooftop deck, a fitness center, a party room, a landscaped plaza of more than 2,500 square feet and a formal lobby with 14-foot ceilings, dramatic archways and marble floors. Though it ultimately will be up to the new condo associations to decide, RDM has planned the Venetian so that it could easily be connected to the Neapolitan to share some services and amenities.
Unusual features such as this potential connection between buildings and the expansive fifth-floor plaza set the project apart, according to Walters.
“The outdoor garden is unique,” Walters says. “In Europe, they’re very into big open spaces where people can relax and walk around and enjoy themselves. You literally could walk your dog on that level. It’s that big.”
The Venetian has just eight units per floor. Three face north, three face south and the two end units face both north and south. Because of setbacks on the ends of the building, six of the eight units on each floor are corner units. Residences begin on the fifth floor, over the parking garage. All of which allows for good views, even from the lowest condos.
“People have 75 to 150 square feet of outdoor space on their balconies,” Mosky says. “You have this incredible skyline view, and brand new construction to the north and south that’s mostly low-rise, so nothing’s in your way. It’s the same thing to the west, a lot of low-rise new construction, as far as Clybourn.”
At press time, the project already was 50 percent sold. To what does Mosky attribute that quick sales pace in a market that has slowed from the frenzied pace of a couple of years ago? Pricing has been a big part of the Venetian’s success, Mosky says. Around 30 of the units come in under $300,000 – a competitive price point for new luxury units in Old Town. The location itself has been another big draw.
“You get buyers who want to live specifically in this neighborhood; they’re not going to live in Lakeview if they want to live here,” Mosky says. “It’s not as congested as the heart of the Gold Coast. It’s a real neighborhood with great restaurants and retailers and proximity to a grocery store, but still walking distance from the Loop.”
The Venetian strives for the same sort of happy medium, according to Mosky, large enough to have stunning views and luxury amenities, but small enough at eight units per floor to feel like an intimate boutique building.
RDM’s vision for its buildings, which extends far beyond merely writing contracts or delivering units, is another part of the developer’s success at projects like the Neapolitan, North Center and the Venetian, Mosky says.
“Everyone at the company has a tremendous eye for detail,” Mosky says. “We have zero tolerance on punch lists. We want nothing on there, and if there is something, we want it done the day we close.”
RDM prides itself on “after-service,” according to Mosky, who cites several recent projects that his management arm now runs as evidence of this long-term approach.
“We manage these buildings because we want to make sure they’re run properly,” Mosky says. “We don’t want Windex used on marble floors or abrasives on glass. Even if I don’t own anything there, it’s still my building and I want it to look good.”
First occupancy at the Venetian is scheduled for January 2004.